A new record of sea surface temperature (SST) for climate applications is described. This record provides independent corroboration of global variations estimated from SST measurements made in situ. Infrared imagery from Along-Track Scanning Radiometers (ATSRs) is used to create a 20 year time series of SST at 0.1° latitude-longitude resolution, in the ATSR Reprocessing for Climate (ARC) project. A very high degree of independence of in situ measurements is achieved via physics-based techniques. Skin SST and SST estimated for 20 cm depth are provided, with grid cell uncertainty estimates. Comparison with in situ data sets establishes that ARC SSTs generally have bias of order 0.1 K or smaller. The precision of the ARC SSTs is 0.14 K during 2003 to 2009, from three-way error analysis. Over the period 1994 to 2010, ARC SSTs are stable, with better than 95% confidence, to within 0.005 K yr−1(demonstrated for tropical regions). The data set appears useful for cleanly quantifying interannual variability in SST and major SST anomalies. The ARC SST global anomaly time series is compared to the in situ-based Hadley Centre SST data set version 3 (HadSST3). Within known uncertainties in bias adjustments applied to in situ measurements, the independent ARC record and HadSST3 present the same variations in global marine temperature since 1996. Since the in situ observing system evolved significantly in its mix of measurement platforms and techniques over this period, ARC SSTs provide an important corroboration that HadSST3 accurately represents recent variability and change in this essential climate variable.